Sunday, November 18, 2007

Racism by any other name: a letter to Royson James

Royson James writes for the Toronto Star. He covers the City Hall beat, usually, but has taken an interest in an issue that has recently popped up in Toronto: the notion of an "Afrocentric" alternative school.

You see, some folks feel that the cure-all for gangs and drop-out rates amongst "black" teenagers (in this day and age, someone needs to define "black" to me, by the way) is to give them the opportunity to attend a school where the curriculum revolves around African culture and history. (All this cropped up within days of a provincial election in which the people made it crystal clear they do not support faith-based schools.)

I can't tell you how much this troubles and disgusts me. If I've said it once, I've said it a million times: racism is bad, period.


I don't have the time nor energy to go into it all here. I just want to point out an article Mr. James wrote and a quick reply I drafted and sent to him. I was so frustrated with what I read that I had to write something. Here's the article.

Here's my letter to him:

Mr. James:


Get beyond your preconceived notion that a racist is a white, southern redneck with a pitchfork in his hand; a racist is someone who discriminates between races. This is what you do and suggest the TDSB do by creating a race-based alternative school.


"Let's try something new." Are you insane? What is new about segregation and racism? Dr. King is spinning in his grave, I am sure.

And why is it that if there are gangs and if kids are dropping out of school that it's the school's fault? That the school system is broken and failing? And that it's failing because it doesn't cater to African culture? What about Latin culture or Asian culture? Why aren't Asian kids dropping like flies?

Maybe, just maybe, the reason kids in Flemington Park are more likely to die violently than to go to college - as your favourite quote seems to suggest - is not because they didn't have a black teacher or study the history of Zaire, but because they live in Flemington Park. Perhaps we should be looking to the City of Toronto or the Province of Ontario to help solve these issues with more social funding and infrastructure; more sports teams, more social events. How is it that dividing people by race is a better solution than bringing them together?

You applaud Dari Meade's statement: "We need that kind of special caring that white teachers in the white schools give to white kids ... people who are going to go the extra mile in caring about educating black kids." That statement is racist to the core and is extremely troubling. So let me get this straight: we're accepting for a fact that white teachers give preferential treatment to white kids? Why? The only logical conclusion is that the person making this statement believes a teacher cannot help but feel more empathy for a student of their own race. Why would someone believe this? Because they feel that way themselves. Do you really want to support the statements of a racist? (By the way, what does it matter if the school is not exclusive to "black" students? If, by your own argument, the black teachers will treat the black kids better than the "white" kids - just as white teachers NATURALLY treat white kids better - why would anyone else attend?)

I went to a high school in the north of Brampton. There was a great mix of students. The neighbourhood was largely south/southeast Asian and Caribbean, with many Italian students busing in from Caledon East and Bolton. The faculty reflected a cross-section of Canadian backgrounds. What's wrong with that?

"Eurocentric"? What is that, exactly, pray tell? We didn't study European history, we studied Canadian history. Yes, there's a difference. Granted, we studied Shakespeare in English class - a Brit, yes,'s Shakespeare.

But I digress. My intention here is to outline how repulsive the idea of a race-based school is - whether you call it a "black-focused" school or an "Afrocentric school". Doesn't matter.

And anyone who supports such a school is, by definition, a racist.

Give your head a shake.

Racism is bad.


No exceptions.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Jiri Tlusty should not be embarassed: media and girl should

I'm not sure how many non-sports fans have heard about this one, although it was carried by all major media outlets from what I can tell.

Seems Toronto Maple Leafs (that's hockey for you folks in Zimbabwe) rookie forward Jiri Tlusty hooked up with some gal over the internet a year ago and, one thing leading to another, he sent her a picture of himself "hanging out" at home, so to speak.

A year later, these photos mysteriously appear on the Web and the press is all over it. Shame! Scandal! Surely this will ruin the young man's career!

Tee-hee! Peepee! Poopoo!

But a surprising thing happeend on the way to the front page; the players interviewed seemed unaffected by Jiri's cyber "indiscretion". They didn't say, "the kid screwed up" or "let's send him to rehab and couselling, poor guy." Instead, they chalked it up as no big deal to anyone but the press. And guess what? The press ran it anyway.

Do you care, dear public?

I don't.

So why is this occupying space in my newspaper and time on my sportscast?

Seems the press have nothing better to do than to try to magnify any embarrassment the poor guy might be feeling, when perhaps they should be investigating what kind of person betrays a man's trust and leaks such "intimate" material to a website. If anyone should be hounded and embarrassed, it ought to be the person who sought to embarrass this guy: the gal, followed closely by the media themselves.

Frankly, it's no big deal to me. I cringe at the media's response - not the fact that a guy takes a picture of himself in the buff to send to an object of desire.

Hell, I wish women who fancied me would send me pictures of themselves in all their glory. I'm sorry for you prudes out there, but that's just hot. Ridiculously hot.

And I'd return the favour, if so desired and conditions permitting. Of course, I wouldn't send pics to an "internet girlfriend" as it appears Jiri did, but that's no excuse for betraying him. See, trust is the key here. When you share something "intimate" like that, you trust that the person won't go around flashing it (pardon the pun) to everyone in sight. That's a given. But if the person betrays that trust and the pics get "out there", then why should the "victim" feel shamed? Because something personal was revealed?


First of all, dear critics, get over yourselves. You have "private parts" too. Stop acting like they don't exist. I often envy "exhibitionists" who have no fear of public perceptions and criticism (though many folks would suggets I am quite shameless myself). I shake my head at folks who think sex is dirty and shouldn't see the light of day.

Jiri need not feel shamed for being sexually expressive. The only mistake he made was trusting the wrong person.

Shame on her.

Friday, September 21, 2007

The Worst Tim Horton's in Toronto

Ok, I'm coming out of semi-retirement (Roger Clemens...I'm looking in your direction...) to take a jab at a situation that cannot be allowed to continue:

We must save the world from shitty Tim Horton's locations.

The worst Tim Horton's location in Toronto has got to be the one at Wellington & Scott (near BCE Place and the former Hummingbird Centre/former O'Keefe Centre/now Sony Centre for the Performing Arts).


The service was so slow, so bad, that I boycotted it a couple of times. I found a new location up at King & Victoria that was way faster...too fast, as it turns out, 'cause they tend to screw up your order. Almost as annoying: their practice of asking for your order while you're still the 5th or 6th person in line, requiring you to shout it out to the "helper" behind the counter, 5 minutes before you reach the cashier. Sure, your coffee is probably waiting for you by the time you pay, but that's just it - it's been waiting ...and waiting...and waiting for you. Hope you take your coffee "double-lukewarm".

What does this have to do with the Wellington location? Well, judging by the staff overlap, they're owned by the same franchisee.

Who evaluates these people? I mean, does Head Office come by and see if they're representing the T.H. brand properly? Or do they keep quiet so long as the place makes money?

Well, guess what: this place ain't getting my money no more. And judging by the word of mouth circulating amongst my co-workers, there's lots of other people's money they ain't getting no more, either! (I actually rarely go to Tim Horton's anymore anyway - my disgust has prompted me to find all sorts of alternatives in the neighbourhood for my morning muffin/sandwich)

Apparently, there's a location near Church and Front - if I'm willing to go a little out of my way. It's can't be any worse than the Wellington location.

...Can it?

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Film Review: Transformers

Here it is folks: post 250.

Will it be the last? ...We'll see.

Caught Transformers tonight. Thank goodness, 'cause I was getting tired of avoiding the trailers.

I really liked this movie. It pretty much rocked. KA was practically giddy afterwards.

Sure, it's a fanboy flick. Just like most movies based on comics/cartoons/etc, you kinda have to be a fan going in (though kids seeing the film will likely be jazzed, too - no pun intended). This movie doesn't waste too much time with exposition, though it's all there. That was actually one of the things I liked about this film - the way the characters were introduced. It was a pretty slow process, but it felt natural (if that's possible in a film about robot aliens invading Earth, disguised as everyday objects). I thought I'd hate the humans in the film, especially the teens. I figured they'd just get in the way. But the regular struggles of the main characters actually helped with the exposition of the mechanical stars.

I'll try not to spoil too much. Let's see...I thought Michael Bay's style was well-suited to this kind of film (I actually don't mind the guy's "look" usually - it's the stories that tend to suck). The casting was interesting - like I said, I didn't mind the humans too much (with one or two exceptions that I won't mention here since I don't know if it's common knowledge that these particular actors are in it). I liked the Transformers, though I would have liked there to have been a little more of them, especially the Decepticons (though I could have done with less Soundwave who was a little too George Lucas for my liking).

I gotta say, the little nods to the original tv cartoon had me grinning like a kid.

So, all in all, this was a definite thumbs up, with mondo credit going to the artistic team. This movie could have easily sucked, but it hit most of the right notes. The movie runs a little long at times and some of the CG was a bit of a mess (close-ups during battles usually just translated into a bunch of colours on screen, with no real sense of what was happening - wide angles were welcome), but the story was much better than I had expected.

Yup, thumbs up.

Boy, am I glad it didn't suck.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Film Review: The Last King of Scotland

I got a chance to watch The Last King of Scotland on dvd yesterday. Seeing as it was such a big deal last year, I figured I'd give it a review here.

For those who don't know, the movie revolves around a young Scottish doctor who heads to Uganda on a whim and gets caught up with the new and eccentric general-turned-dictator Idi Amin.

For portraying Amin, Forest Whitaker picked up the Best Actor statuette at the Oscars.

Which brings me to my first issue with this film.

Whitaker cannot be the lead actor, because Amin is not the lead character. The movie is clearly about Nicholas Garrigan, played by relative nobody James McAvoy (remember the faun in The Chronicles of Narnia?). Sure, Whitaker chews the scenery and Amin is a dominant force in all his scenes, but the fact remains that the movie is not about him. This is like giving Sean Connery the Best Actor nod for The Untouchables. Sure he's enjoyable, sure he dominates scenes, but the movie is about Kevin Costner's Elliot Ness. Besides, while The Untouchables had Connery scenes without Costner, all of Whitaker's scenes include McAvoy - and there are no scenes without McAvoy. Whitaker's performance is quite good, but clearly he should have won for Best Supporting Actor - just as Connery did.

But my big complaint about the movie itself is the story. It's colour-by-numbers. There are no surprises to be found here. Every story turn is predictable - whether it makes sense or not. See Gillian Anderson's character for the "no sense" variety. Like The Namesake, this movie is based on a novel and, once again, we see a screenplay that doesn't know where to trim. At first I thought the movie was supposed to be a semi-true account, like Almost Famous, but I have since read that it is fictional (so why base it in a real country with a real leader? I dunno either).

The movie had promise, and it wasn't boring, but in the end it left me with little in terms of "attachment".

How could a movie about a Scottish guy in Africa be this unoriginal?

Thumbs sideways.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Film Review: The Namesake

So this was movie no. 2 in my double feature. Personally, I could have gone for something a little more action-packed after Waitress, but this was my friend's choice and I'm a sucker for a pretty lady.

The Namesake is a movie about two generations of an Indian family and the struggle between their traditions and their desires.

It's a good movie. I enjoyed it. But like most movies these days, it's a little long. Typical of films based on books, it seems to struggle between being faithful to the book and catering to the audience. If this had been simply a movie, I'd be crucifying the filmmakers for not cutting a rather pointless series of events covering about a half hour near the end of the film. As it is, I understand. Gogol needs to have his story too. Still, it was too long.

My other complaint was the screenplay. Every twist and turn is set up. Nothing catches you by surprise. This really hinders the impact of some of the more dramatic events. Also, the "bad" characters slip into very convenient cliches when the filmmakers want you to turn against them. This shows a lack of characterization and makes the writer look lazy. The filmmakers also seem to woefully overestimate our affection for some of these "bad" characters. If we don't care about them in the first place, then their "turns" don't affect us.

As for the characters and acting, the parents (Ashoke and Ashima) played by Irfan Khan and Tabu (is that like Hindi for "Cher"?) are quite enjoyable and far more entertaining than Kumar... I mean Kal Penn (Gogol). Penn has a likeable demeanor, but not so much in this movie and I remain unconvinced the guy is suited to dramatic roles (I just about choked when I saw him as a terrorist - go figure - on an episode of 24).

But the sentiment behind the story saves the movie from these missteps. It's a movie not without its charms and the overall movie experience is a thumbs up.

I hope some of my South Asian friends will tell me what they thought of it. Something tells me they'd get a bit more of a kick out of the culture conflicts.

Film Review: Waitress

Have you guys seen these movie pass coupons on cereal boxes? They had a similiar promotion last year. The funny thing is the cereal ain't crap, the pass is worth $10-12 and the cereal is on sale for $2.99 to boot!

I picked up about 13 boxes a couple of months ago before they disappeared off the shelves.

The passes are due to expire today and since last night was my last free night to go I took in a double feature to use up the last of them.

First up: Waitress, starring Keri Russell.

Now I was not what you'd call a fan of Felicity, so I did not go into this movie with high hopes for her acting prowess. The reviews, however, convinced me to go. Apparently, this film was the darling of Sundance and rottentomatoes had been giving it big props. With the Sundance stamp of approval, you kinda know what you're gonna get: quirky independent American movie with charm.

And that's exactly what you get.

At first, the movie hits you with its clumsy dialogue and line delivery. I thought this was gonna be a poor man's Fargo. But after about half an hour, the movie kinda hooks you. The stories flesh out a little and the quirkiness isn't so prominent.

The problem with this movie is that it kinda stalls, story-wise. The writer kinda paints themself into a corner and there's nowhere for the characters to go except to the rather obvious conclusion.

So the movie really relies on the "feel" of the film: you'll either buy into it and enjoy it, or shake your head with boredom. I was more the former, my friend was more the latter.

Overall it's a thumbs up, but you don't need to rush out to see it. I'm sure it'll be on tv plenty.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Harvey's is back on the list

It seems I have two lists.

This list deals with eateries I simply refuse to frequent.

I have a rather delicate stomach. It is my burden for being otherwise flawless. Even Achilles had a weakness, dontcha know.

My delicate stomach tells me when I am eating something less than healthy; a belated Spidey-sense if you will. I can eat a meal and tell within minutes if it was not exactly top shelf.

As a result of my gastronomic disasters, I have made note of restaurants and fast food joints that are classified "Off Limits".

For example:

Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) - the deadliest of offenders. The foulest of fowls. Eating here is tantamount to bulimia.

Taco Bell - Te quiero, Taco Bell. But you don't love me back. You taste so good and cost so little, but you break my heart almost every time. You rip out my guts - the hard way.

McDonald's - I still haven't been back. 8 months. "F**k you, clown!"

Pizza Pizza - a recent addition to the list. It might depend on which location I eat at, but I've decided to no longer take the chance. Too bad: it ain't half bad and it's cheaper than Domino's.

For a good while, Harvey's (aka Starvey's) was on the list. In fact, I believe it was a founding member. Recently, however, I had placed it on probation; but it re-offended.

It's back on the list.

"There's an old saying in Tennessee — I know it's in Texas, probably in Tennessee — that says, fool me once... shame on — shame on you.... Fool me, you can't get fooled again."
- George W. Bush The biggest fool on the planet.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Film Review: 28 Weeks Later

Ah, another sequel...

I went into this movie with somewhat low expectations since it was a sequel and sequels tend to disappoint (notable exceptions? Hm...Aliens...Superman Returns...Star Trek II...). But it was hard not to be a little jazzed because I loved 28 Days Later so much. I also knew this one had potential judging by the expressions on friends' faces whenever a trailer was shown (I was watching them, not the screen, naturally, 'cause I hate having any part of a movie blown for me).

Did it disappoint? Kinda...but not terribly.

The major problem with the movie is the premise. I'm trying to avoid any spoilers here, but I don't think I'm giving much away by saying that the basic plot revolves around the return of some Britons to the island under military watch. Why are people returning to the island?

...Good question. I wish I had an answer. In the context of the movie, it makes no sense. If they were scientists or specialists of some kind, ok, I'd buy it. But these appear to be just yokels.


The problem is that this little quirk affects the rest of the movie: while the military seem to have their sh*t together for the most part, the civilians are just zombie fodder. So, in some ways, it makes it hard to feel sorry for them.

You wanna go back where? Why?

Which brings us to the actors. Again, no big spoiler to mention that there are kids in this movie.

I hate kids.

Don't get me wrong, I like children and I hope to have some of my own some day if I can get some poor woman to agree, but just keep them out of my movie-going experience; that means on screen and in the theatre (the little girl was easily the worst part of the first movie). They just don't have the chops to pull off characters with great depth and you can see their acting choices coming a mile away. The ones in this flick aren't too bad, but this movie could have been awesome without them.

As it is, I have to give this movie a very lazy thumbs up. It'll give you the willies and you'll get your zombie fix, but it just seemed unnecessary and it isn't worthy of the original.

Oh, and the ending? Don't get me started...

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Film Review: Away From Her

Wow. And I thought Spider-Man 3 was depressing...

First off, let me say that this is a good movie. It's a great Canadian movie.

It's all relative, folks.

For those out of the loop, Away From Her is directed by Sarah Polley, the largely-overrated Canadian darling, and features the likes of Gordon Pinsent, Julie Christie and Olympia Dukakis in a script adapted (by Polley) from a short story entitled "The Bear Came Over the Mountain" by Alice Munro. Basically, the story is about a husband and wife who struggle with the latter's worsening case of Alzheimer's.

While the direction might be simple and straightforward, the movie works because of the great performances - especially those turned in by Pinsent and Christie. For the most part it's a subtle film, a nice change of pace from most cinema fare.

I actually felt a bit of dampness around my eye region at one point, which is saying something 'cause I'm a cold hearted bastard . I haven't cried in a theatre since E.T.

...both times.

My friend and I were the only two in the theatre without blue hair, which is a shame. This is the type of film "kids" need to be exposed to - willingly or not. I can recall a similar film from my childhood: On Golden Pond, which was also a film featuring older actors and pretty depressing themes.

But this film? THIS film is depressing.


Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Spider-Man 3 ...out of 10.

There's so much suckage I don't really know where to start.

How about the very beginning? From the very first line I knew we were in trouble. "I'm Peter Parker. Your friendly know."


This movie was REALLY poorly written.

If there is any truth to the recent story claiming there are more Spidey sequels to come, I have one suggestion: Sam Raimi must go.

The two major problems with this movie were the writing and direction. Guess who?

Sure, it didn't help that some of the acting was sub-standard, but the actors can really only work with what they're given and they were given a pile of shite.

I won't spoil anything for those who haven't seen it (judging by the box office, I'm not sure who hasn't), so I'll break it down succinctly:

- The Venom storyline stank. I knew it'd be impossible for them to do the plot justice. I was right.

- I didn't like Gwen at first, but she grew on me. Maybe because I liked Bryce Dallas Howard in The Village, too.

- Topher Grace was...Topher Grace. Does he have any other characters in his arsenal? Apparently not. I like the guy, but when your range is that limited, two things happen: a) you wear thin quick b) you don't do some characters justice. As Eddie Brock he was tolerable. As Venom he was ridiculous.

- Sandman.... I didn't mind Thomas Haden Church, despite the unusual casting. He was probably the best actor in the cast. But the Sandman character drove me nuts. He exhibited powers that I don't believe are part of the comic book version. As a result, some of the fight sequences seemed, for lack of a better word, unbelievable.

- Goblin. I think they mishandled this character from the start. I'm not quite sure that what I saw in this movie was the Goblin. More like Rocket Racer.

I could go on and on ripping the actual plot apart, but I'm afraid I've already pissed off KA enough. Seems she actually liked the movie. Freak.

Don't get me wrong. It wasn't ALL bad.

...I gave it 3, didn't I?

Friday, May 04, 2007

Film Review: Hot Fuzz

Caught Hot Fuzz at the Paramount last night (no, it's the Paramount - Scotiabank can kiss my ass).

It was really good. I laughed out loud - really loud - many times.

It starts off slowly, and at first I thought this was gonna be another Shaun Of The Dead (funny, but not FUNNY), but at about the midpoint of the film it really takes off and the laughs come pretty fast and furious after that.

Unfortunately, KA, those laughs usually come accompanied by a good amount of blood (I don't think I'm giving anything away by stating that) so you'll have to decide if comedic gore is disturbing.

It helps, too, if you've seen your fair share of action flicks and can recognize when the genre (and specific films) is being spoofed. (Bad Boys and Point Break are particularly useful - again, I don't think I'm giving too much away by stating that)
Overall, I was pleased that this was, in fact, better than Shaun Of The Dead and I left the theatre in a good mood. What more can you want?
Thumbs up.
On a side note, there was a trailer for 28 Weeks Later before the film and despite turning my head and covering my ears, I still had some of the movie spoiled for me. Oh well. If the expression on my friend's face is any indication, this sequel to the spectacular 28 Days Later is very promising.
Spider-Man 3 however, is getting very mixed reviews. I accidentally saw about 1.5 seconds worth of movie clips this morning and - ARGH! - had a very important plot point blown for me. I have little doubt that the clip in question came from the latter half of the movie. Why do media outlets insist on revealing key moments of the film like this? Mother f***ers!
I'll write a review as soon as I see the film - likely this weekend sometime - but I'm not holding out much hope that this film will satisfy a Spidey fan like me. The Venom/alien symbiote costume plotline is complicated and was pivotal to the comic book Spider-Man mythos. Much like Revenge of The Sith, I don't see how a film can cover so much ground in so little time. Already the casting of Topher Grace as Eddie Brock is maddening. (In the comic, Eddie is a bodybuilder - thus Venom is like Spidey, only bigger and stronger.)
The movie reviews should be coming fast and furious over the next week or so - I'll get to 250 in no time!

Monday, April 30, 2007

This and That - continued

Three weeks.

It's been three weeks since my last post.

I must be running out of steam quicker than I thought. See, a while back (somewhere around my 200th post) I started to think that at 25o posts I would reconsider this whole blog thing.

I guess the fact that I've been slowing down so much is a pretty strong indication that 250 might be my last post.

So enjoy #241.

- First of all, tonight is the big night for Grownups Read Things They Wrote As Kids - Part Deux. Dan is hosting this fun night at the Victory Cafe on Markham, south of Bloor, near Honest Ed's. I'm looking forward to it, though I'll have to go home to get my story. I forgot it in my rush out the door this morning. It's been that kind of week.

That Kind Of Week
- Broke my nose playing ultimate frisbee last weekend. Did I mention that? Yeah. Kinda sucks. I'm all crooked now.

That Kind Of Week II
- Burned my wrist while ironing the other day. Did I mention that? Yeah. Kinda sucks. I'm all scarred now.

- I'm sure I could write a whole essay on this one (and I assume others have). The verdict's still out on this one, in many respects. But, I gotta admit, this last month has been interesting; catching up with names and faces I hadn't seen in years. It's like looking back on a whole other life.

Hot Docs
- Checked out the Toronto Hot Docs festival last week. I'd have to say it wasn't worthy of its own post, despite the fact that I saw several films (thanks to my "industry pass" - the only perk I've seen from this job so far). The films I saw came across as rather amateurish. Some will be on tv soon, so you can judge for yourself.

Mainstream Films
- I plan to see Hot Fuzz and Spider-Man 3 soon, so stay tuned for those reviews. Probably in posts 242 and 243.

UFC 70
- A largely disappointing event, especially for Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic fans. The Croatian Sensation was knocked out by a high leg kick at the very end of the first round in a shocking upset. The dream card of Cro Cop vs. Randy "The Natural" Couture will have to wait until at least the end of the year. Let's hope UFC 71 is better. Even UFC President Dana White admitted "Nations Collide" was a bust.

My New Cell Phone
- I broke down and got a cell phone last month. It's a Fido pay-as-you-go type of deal. I pay $10 for a month and get calls for $0.30/min anytime. I can receive texts for free, but it costs $0.15 to send. So far, I've been pretty happy to have it. I've used it a few times in the very scenarios I envisioned: trying to coordinate with friends while "on the road". Big thanks to my friend Christine who gave me her old phone. The sound quality is better than any other cell phone I've used (my major compaint).

What that's about it. The usual stuff still applies: hate Bush, haven't been to McDonald's...

Hmmm.. this was a pretty lame post. Sorry about that, folks. I might need suggestions to get me even as far as 250!

Sunday, April 08, 2007

UFC 69 : The Great Depression


This was an odd night. After watching the Leafs take care of business by defeating the Canadiens in regulation, I settled in to catch the real highlight of the night: UFC 69.

Or so I thought.

The night started off well, with former Ultimate Fighter winner Kendall Grove (10-3) defeating Alan belcher (9-3) in impressive fashion.

But the first hiccup of the night came when hometown boy and former Ultimate Fighter participant Mike "Quick" Swick (10-2) laid an egg against Yushi Okami (21-3). Swick didn't seem to have his typical confidence (hometown nerves?) and couldn't overcome Okami's takedowns. It was frustrating to watch Swick hold back; when he did let his fists fly, he was really taking it to the Japanese newcomer. The unanimous decision (29-28, 30-27, 29-28) was closer than it should have been.

The next fight made up for things a little - it was actually the best fight of the night...sloppy, but exciting. Lightweights Roger Huerta (19-1) and Leonard Garcia (13-2) threw bombs from beginning to end - a rare sight for that weight class. The 30-27 unanimous decision did not do the fight justice; it was a pretty close fight, but Huerta squeezed out each round.

The night went to hell in the next fight, which was probably the most anticipated bout of the night: 19-0 Diego "Nightmare" Sanchez vs. 10-1 Josh Koscheck. These two obviously hate each other, exchanging words in interviews and punctuated by a Sanchez shove at the weigh-in. The fighters refused to touch gloves before the fight...and that was the end of the excitement. This was all hype, folks. The fighters came out in each of the three rounds just circling each other, with only the occasional jab. Koscheck won each round by connecting on one or two punches, while Sanchez did absolutely nothing. The fans in attendance clearly expressed their displeasure with a chorus of boos in each round. Boooooring. Worst fight of the year. This was a disaster for Sanchez. Much like the Griffin-Jardine bout, this fight should have never taken place. Koscheck simply hadn't earned it. He had lost to Sanchez during the first Ultimate Fighter and Sanchez had gone undefeated since, taking out guys like Caro Parisyan, Joe Riggs and Nick Diaz. Koscheck, meanwhile, had amassed a very good record, mostly against meatheads. Sanchez suffered the same fate as Griffin, and instead of a much-deserved title fight, he now has to (unbelievably) "prove himself" with another couple of wins before he can jump to the front of the line.

But the topper on the night came in the main event as UFC Welterweight Champ Georges St-Pierre made his first title defense against Ultimate Fighter: The Comeback winner Matt "the Terror" Serra. St-Pierre was heavily favoured, but as soon as the fight started I asked myself: "Wait a is St-Pierre going to win"? Serra had heavier hands and was a world class Jiu-Jitsu fighter. It seemed Serra had the advantage whether it went to the ground or if they stayed on their feet. St-Pierre tried to establish his distinct height/reach advantage, but it didn't take long before Serra connnected on a couple of solid punches, knocking the Canadian silly. St-Pierre could not recover before Serra dropped a few more bombs and within seconds, it was all over. The little guy from Long Island had become the new UFC Welterweight Champion.

Don't get me wrong: I like Serra. I was cheering for him during the Ultimate Fighter, but this win does nothing for the welterweight division. Likeable or not, Serra will not last as champ. Matt Hughes will likely get the first shot at the belt and will be heavily favoured to win. Then what? Another rematch between Hughes and St-Pierre? Probably. But what if St-Pierre wins that fight? A rematch with Serra? Does the belt just go round and round? What about the other guys in the division (and there are lots of contenders)?

All in all, it was a pretty depressing/disappointing night. And it'll only get worse if (when?) the Islanders beat the Devils Sunday afternoon to eliminate the Leafs.

Then again, I hear miracles happen this time of year.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Film Review: Grindhouse

A friend of mine generously offered me passes to the Grindhouse preview held at Silvercity Yonge & Eglinton on Thursday.

The last time I passed on a preview it was for Thank You For Smoking - not making that mistake again.

I've discovered that the majority of reviews for this flick are right on: the style is interesting, but the films are somehow unsatisfying. The first movie (Planet Terror) is better than the second (Death Proof) - though the friend who accompanied me disagreed. (Death Proof actually had greater potential but the execution was brutal) In the end, the experience is a thumbs up, but not a "masterpiece" as the recent ads would have you believe.

If you're wondering how this double-bill thing works, here's the lowdown: the entire experience is a little over 3 hours. For us, this included no trailers and only a 2-minute pause between films. Now, Grindhouse includes its own "trailers" for mock films, so I'm not sure if regular viewings will include an extra 10 minutes of Spider-Man and Pathfinder trailers. If so, it's a loooong night. Empty your bladder beforehand. If you can't make it beyond the break, no worries: the first 20 minutes of Death Proof are a complete waste of time. Not sure what Tarantino was thinking.

Oh, and sorry K.A. - you soooo cannot see this film. The gore factor is very very high. In fact, some of it was beyond unnecessary - to the point where it wasn't funny, it was just...crass. If you see the flick I think you'll understand what I'm hinting at here. No, it's not a genre thing.

So, if you have a stomach for B-movies and schlock, you might get into this and think it's great. My bet, however, is that most of the general public would find this experience pretty silly and tiresome.

I'll let you folks decide for yourselves.

Dr. Block: We gotta lose the arm, Joe.
Joe: Lose the arm? What do you mean, "lose the arm?" My arm?
- Josh Brolin and Nicky Katt in Grindhouse

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

The Fonz Guest Stars on Prison Break


You hear that?

Yup, that's the sound of Prison Break jumping the shark.

It was written on the walls from the start: you have a show about a prison break - how long can it last? How long can you wait before they break out? How long can you keep them on the run?

Well, let's see: as of last night's episode, the prisoners had escaped, the guy who was on death row (the catalyst for the entire show) had been exonerated, half of the original cast was dead, and all of the villains had been exposed or killed.

So now what?

Oh. Right. Have the hero break out of ANOTHER prison! Of course!


Or should I say: "Ayyyyyyyyyyyyy".

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Film Review: The Wind That Shakes The Barley

Even though I know the future Mrs. Daniel Misener ignores my film reviews, I'm bored at work so this is what's on the menu for today.

I caught The Wind That Shakes The Barley the other night. It was thoroughly depressing. Good, but thoroughly depressing.

For those who haven't heard of this little film, it's about the Irish republican movement back in the 1920's. We've seen this before with the likes of Michael Collins et al, but this one is a little smaller scale. It focuses on a small group of villagers (somewhere around Cork, I believe) who form a guerrilla army to oppose the British troops in the area. Lots of dying, lots of crying, lots of green.

The success of the film hinges on the performance of Cillian Murphy (28 Days Later, Red Eye) and he pulls it off pretty well. I don't know if it was just the crappy Cumberland Theatre, but the most frustrating part of my viewing experience was the sound. While the speakers might be partly to blame, it was clear much of the sound was captured during the shoot - rather than added in post. With what appears to be a lower-budget, sometimes improvised piece, that can make for practically inaudible dialogue. Might work better as a home rental.

Overall, I liked it - but it certainly didn't make my day.

I need a hug.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Cory Doctorow Still Needs a Bitchslap

Popped by Boingboing today, as I do most days, and once again Cory's pissing me off with stupid posts. Let's got through the list, shall we?

- P2P is Killing Piracy: Cory has an article where he tells the story of some poor pirate CD merchants who are going out of business because P2P networks like BitTorrent etc are stealing their customers. Awww, poor babies. These guys used to pirate CDs/DVDs and sell them out of the back of their van every weekend, raking in a tidy profit. Cory actually states: "The music industry likes to lump P2P and hard-goods piracy together, but they're not the same thing at all -- in fact, they're dire enemies." You dumbass motherf***er, to the music/film industry they ARE the same thing: an illegal threat to their businesses. Who cares if there's no honour amongst thieves? The problem is that the thieves exist. I can't believe Cory readily admits that these pirates can have their (inexpensive) businesses crippled and still have the balls to say that the big bad (expensive) entertainment industry is unaffected by P2P networks (that, while capable of fair use, are never used in a fair use manner by anyone I've ever heard of - ever. Downloading the latest Gwen Stefani song is not fair use, you stupid dolt).

- Why ebooks' success has nothing to do with screen quality: I swear, if I hear this argument one more time... In this article, Cory claims that the idea that folks don't like reading off computer screens is b.s. He claims that people do like to read off of computer screens and his proof is (drum roll please): people spend all day reading off screens! He says, "It's like watching someone shovel Mars Bars into his gob while telling you how much he hates chocolate..." You...stupid...dumbass...mother... *sigh* How do you explain to a retarded person that they are retarded? I mean, like Brad Pitt says in Se7en: "When a person is insane, as you clearly are, do you know that you're insane? Maybe you're just sitting around, reading Guns and Ammo, masturbating in your own feces, do you just stop and go, 'Wow! It is amazing how fucking crazy I really am!'?" Look, Cory, the reason I read off a screen all day is because I have to read off a screen all day. It's called work, jackass, you should try it sometime. When I can do my work, get sports updates, write in my blog and check my email off something other than a computer screen - guess what? - I'm gonna do it. I read off a computer monitor because I have to. But, given the option between reading a book off a computer screen at my desk or off a piece of paper that I can flip/fold/write on/drop while sitting on a porch/roof/couch/plane/toilet, there's really no contest - the paper wins. Only the most arrogant cybergeek would presume that people are making it all up when they say they prefer paper over LCDs.

- Artists' eyes rove over images: And continuing in the unscientific realm... Cory posts this one about an "experiment" that tracked the eye movement of artists vs. "non-artists" when presented with an image (for example of person in a body of water). The artists, of course, scan the whole picture, taking in the breadth of the image, the nuances, the colours - gee, aren't they great? While the "non-artists" fix their gaze much more steadily on the face of the person in the water - ha! See? Artists are imaginative and see the big picture, while non-artists are obvious and narrow-minded! Proof! ...Uh...Except the "non-artists" used in this most scientific of experiments were all psychologists. Hm...think that might skew the results? Look, I'm the last person who is going to argue that people's brains aren't wired differently and that we see the world each in our own way, but could we try to make this a little more scientific and make fewer broad generalizations about the results? The psychologists fixated on the person's face more than the artists. That says nothing about "non-artists": it says something about psychologists. Gee, who would have thought that psychologists might be tempted to look more at a person's face than the pretty colours around them? Will wonders never cease? You'd almost think these psychologist types have a thing for people... I wouldn't be so peeved if this were an isolated case of poor science (or stupidity on Cory's part) but the fact is that almost every article I read about some study or experiment indicates some obvious flaw in methodology.

Ok, enough looking at this bloody computer screen - time for lunch.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

This And That - Again

Man, I'm bored...

What's going on these days...?

- Did you hear about this new species of leopard in Borneo? This thing looks bad-ass. "The clouded leopard is Borneo's largest predator, has the longest canine teeth relative to its size of any cat, and can grow as large as a small panther."

- Marvel Comics is trying to pull off a "death of" stunt, this time with Captain America. This comes on the heels of the recent Civil War storyline, where Cap and a group of "outlaws" defied the U.S. government and refused to abide by the Superhuman Registration Act. Eventually, Cap surrendered rather than incur civilian casualties, only to be taken out by...a sniper? SO lame. So not gonna last. If you read the issue, you know this "event" has plenty of loopholes. This didn't stop some media outlets from reporting the story, much as they did the "Death of Superman" - remember that? Mark my words: Cap will be back around the time that the Initiative storyline winds down - a year or so (July 4, 2008?). (As I suspected, the "Captain America" mantle will be picked up - temporarily - by The Punisher who has been getting a little more attention thanks to his role in Civil War) Give some points to Marvel for taking on a relevant political issue - the SRA was often compared to Bush's bullsh*t Patriot Act (a misnomer if there ever was one - let's protect Freedom by taking freedom away, shall we?). It's only fitting, then, that Captain America, the symbol of all things good in the U.S., would "die" fighting it.

- A couple of very real deaths occurred recently, however - both by suicide. Richard Jeni was a terrific stand-up comic - probably my favourite. I can recall a number of his routines involving late night Brooklyn-based diet infomercials ("I've got a weight loss plan for you: it's called 'Stop eating, you fat bastard!'...Send me fifty dollars, I'll send you a tape. It's not video tape, it's not audio tape, it's Scotch tape: Put if over your mouth, so the Twinkies don't get in."), the stupidity and allure of Jaws 4, and a whole bunch more.

- Brad Delp, the lead singer of famed '70s band Boston passed away this week also. I have their greatest hits CD, which includes songs like "More Than A Feeling", "Foreplay/Long Time" and "Amanda" - essential to any classic rock collection.

- Today, the Supreme Court of Canada upheld the longstanding publication blackout/ban for elections. Seems some guy got fined ($1,000) for posting the Atlantic Canada results prematurely on his website. He fought the fine all the way to the Supreme Court with the support (not surprisingly) of all the major madia outlets. "He argued the prohibition in the Canada Elections Act violated freedom of speech and freedom of political association and said the ban was obsolete in the age of the Internet and other modern communications technology." Huh? Seems to me that quick and efficient mass communication tools make the ban more relevant than ever. If polls are going to have the same business hours regardless of time zone (meaning the BC polls stay open 3 hours later than the ones in Ontario) then you have to have a ban. Exit polls are one thing (inexact and flawed as they are) but posting the actual results in one region before the voting is over is just wrong (no one should know the results while an election is still taking place!). The solution is to have all the polls close at the same moment everywhere - midnight in Ontario, 9pm in BC (or something similar). Sure, the networks won't like it because of the loss of prime time coverage in the east (the alternative is to screw west coasters and have the polls there close at 6pm or something) but elections shouldn't be about television.

- I thought women tried to avoid wearing the same stuff as other women. So why is it that everywhere I look I see women carrying those ridiculous Louis Vuitton bags? (or knockoffs - how sad is that?) Weird. Honestly, ladies, it makes you look pathetic and shallow.

- Pete Rose recently admitted that he did in fact bet on baseball games involving the team he was managing at the time - the Cincinnati Reds. The thing is, he claims he bet on his team to WIN every time. Wow. If it's true, this guy shouldn't be punished; he should proceed directly to the Hall of Fame - do not pass GO, do not collect $200. That's some kind of gamer. It's not like a bet like that would affect your managing - you should be trying to win. The only shame in all this is that Rose looked like a jackass all these years for denying he bet on baseball at all.

- I'm still trying to figure out what I think of Facebook. It's such a weird concept. The appeal is that it circumvents some pay sites like Classmates, who must be crapping their pants right now (it'd be a good way to organize a reunion, provided enough members join). But the whole notion that people use it to compare the number of friends they have is completely and utterly sad. Not to mention that it's an internet voyeur's dream - you can find out tons about a person (yes, even if they make their profile "private"). It's a good way to find out if your friends have any "cute" connections that they could set you up with - thus bypassing the whole Lavalife thing. You can post pictures (bypassing Flickr). It's also a way of keeping in touch with friends (bypassing email) and what's going on in their lives (bypassing blogs). But none of this is really "free". You can bet your ass Facebook is using all of this networking info for some nefarious purpose - yes, I've started getting junk mail in my account.
- Don't you love how the Leafs manage to toy with us at this time of year? (Yes, I mean "us" - if you're not a Leafs fan, you're a closet Leafs fan!) Just when you thought they were out of it, back come Tucker and Wellwood, with Peca in the wings. Sometimes you think that if they could just get healthy and into the playoffs, they might do alright. And then the unicorns suddenly run away.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Film Review: 300

Yup, it was worth the wait.

I'm actually somewhat surprised that the Rottentomatoes rating is as low as it is (62% at last check). Sure, this isn't going to win an Oscar for the script - but what do you want? It's an action movie based on a graphic (figuratively and literally) novel.

I actually waited to write this review because I wanted to pop into the local Indigo book store and see how the movie book compared to the film. Usually the film is a watered-down, Hollywood-ized version of the original source, but that's not the case here: the film is MUCH better than the comic. All the lines in the movie that made me wince, ("would a Spartan king really say that?") were lifted from the comic. Yes, Xerxes is that tall in the book. Yes, Ephialtes is that grotesque.

But what makes the film better is where it was not true to the source material: the exposition is better, the scenery is better, the characters are better, the action is better, the pathos is better, the violence is better.

This movie may not be everyone's cup of tea. Scratch that: this film is most definitely not everyone's cup of tea. But if we're to judge this film on its merits, we have to first accept it for what it is: a bloody comic book-based action film with iconic figures and wall-to-wall gore. If you accept that as its "genre", then I have a hard time believing anyone could give this film a bad review.
The achievements made here in cinematography and visual effects will pave the way for bigger and bolder films to come (The director's next challenge: The Watchmen...holy...). While 300, like the recent Star Wars trilogy, may have been 10% real and 90% green/blue screen, this movie isn't just about filling the screen with droids and starships; this movie - every frame of it - is a piece of art. It's as if every moment was painstakingly hand painted. It's gorgeous.

That's worth the price of admission alone.

Want another reason to like it? Ok, how about the fact that it was shot almost entirely in Montreal? It was shot in a mere 60 days with over a year of post-production. Oh, and ladies: the actors went through 6 weeks of rigorous training before shooting to get those ridiculously buff physiques, worthy of Spartan warriors. As one reviewer put it: "I feel comfortable enough in my (relative lack of) masculinity to say that if I had to stand in the presence of these men for more than ten seconds I'd spontaneously grow a pair of ovaries."

This battle is also credited with spawning the famous "come and get it" retort to an aggressor. It's claimed that when the Persians demanded that the Spartans lay down their weapons in submission to Xerxes, the Spartan king replied, "Come and get them!" ("Molon Labe")

Sure, the movie may not be 100% historically accurate (it's based on the comic, not on the history books, remember) but who cares? The movie made me want to read about the Battle of Thermopylae - and anything that gets me to read has got to be a good thing, right?

(My only complaint? The posters kinda suck - they don't do the film justice. Had they been anywhere near cool, I'd pick one up.)

This is one of those movies that you'll remember for a very long time. The more I think about it, the more I like it.

If you have the stomach, go see this movie.

Friday, March 09, 2007

The Internet Generation Gap

As I type this, I can't for the life of me remember how I came across this article, but I'm glad I did.

It's a piece from New York magazine (online version of course, which is fitting) about the emerging generation gap between those who grew up with the internet versus those who did not. It's all about privacy and personal space and what should and should not be posted online (and who's to judge anyways?).

I found it quite fascinating. It talks about many of the same things I wonder about when the topic of the internet and MySpace/Livejournal/Blogger/Lavalife/webcams etc etc etc come up.

How is the internet affecting people vis-a-vis school, friends, sex, privacy, relationships, celebrity...

The internet really hit the scene when I was in second year at UofT. Before that, I hadn't heard of hotmail, no one I knew had an "email address", a chat room was a place French people kept their pets, diaries had locks on them, nobody talked to strangers, and unless you came across a hidden stash somewhere you had to get your porn at the local Hasty Market.

My, how the world has changed...

Create Your Own Battlestar Galactica Clip!

Came across this cool idea via the folks at Boingboing.

Ever wanted to see your face on an episode of your favourite tv show? Well, if Battlestar Galactica is your thing - now you can!

Just head on over to the website and you can choose from dozens of clips from the show. Just mash 'em up with your own video and voila!: you're a star.

And in case that weren't appealing enough, you can submit your little opus and the best one will be aired on Sci Fi during a BSG episode!

In today's day and age of creators fearing piracy and digital rights management, it's refreshing to see a show that is clearly going above and beyond in reaching out to fans. In case you haven't seen it, BSG is a very cool show that is unlike any other spaceship/sci-fi show I've seen. Hell, it's borderline depressing.

I'd love to see Dan and/or Tristan take this on. Could Stan be a Cylon clone?!

If anyone wants to make one, I'll volunteer to help out!

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Nifty Snickers Commercial

Came across this via

Why aren't there more imaginative commercials like this?

Check it out.

Monday, March 05, 2007

UFC 68: The UFC Has Arrived *spoilers*


Two very pleasant surprises came out of the UFC event held Saturday night.

First, Randy Couture pulled off the massive upset over heavyweight champion Tim Sylvia. He didn't just beat Sylvia - he dominated him from start to finish. It was unbelievable. I hadn't given the 43-year old Couture a prayer of winning against his gigantic opponent who was 13 years younger, 6 inches taller and 40 pounds heavier. Just like GSP's win, the bar went apeshit for Couture.


The second surprise came the next morning, when I was able to catch highlights and commentary on Sportsnet and The Score (I didn't notice anything on TSN). I've been saying for a while now that mixed martial arts (MMA) is the next Texas Hold'em - pretty soon you'll be seeing it everywhere. As it stands, I can catch MMA almost any night in some form or another and I just eat it up. (Wonder if they're hiring commentators?)

It's great to see this form of competition finally get the respect it's been looking for since the very first UFC tourney back in 1993.

MMA has arrived.

Film Review: Zodiac

I had high hopes for this movie, considering the 86% approval rating on Rottentomatoes and the fact it was directed by David Fincher of Fight Club and Se7en fame (two movies I loved).

The movie didn't disappoint, exactly, but it wasn't a home run.

First of all, it's really long. Clocking in at 2 hours and 40 minutes, it'll test the patience of any movie fan, but considering this is a very talky cop drama/suspense flick, it's really pushing it. The tone of the film is pretty even in its intensity, which gives a relentless pace to the film - this adds to the sense of length for the viewer. Some additional peaks and valleys or further editing might have been called for here.

To boot, I had a fair idea of how this movie would end. I mean, if you know a thing or two about the Zodiac killings, you know what to expect and what not to expect in terms of an appropriate ending. That tends to affect the way you view a movie - if it's based on a true story and you know how the real story ended, well...

But, that being said, I enjoyed this film overall. Mark Ruffalo was the real star of this movie, and was far more compelling than the screen time leading Jake Gyllenhaal. The supporting cast was a real treat. I didn't know much about this flick going in (well, other than the above-mentioned real life facts) and I was pleasantly surprised by some of the casting. I purposely avoided reading the names in the credits at the beginning of the movie (the things I do to ensure some sense of surprise - yes, I'm the guy in the theatre with his eyes closed and ears covered during the previews).

Considering Fincher's previous works, I had expected a bit more grittiness from this one. It didn't have the style of Fight Club or Se7en, but it had its moments. There was one murder scene that was rather disturbing in its execution (don't think I've seen something quite like that before) and a scene near the end had me gripping the armrest.

If you like crime drama and can hold your pee for 3 hours, check this one out.

Right now, I'm jonesing for 300...comes out this Friday!!!!

Wednesday, February 28, 2007


A few weeks ago, my (much younger) cousin sent me an invite to join Facebook and become a "friend" of hers. Not wanting her to think I wasn't her friend (she's really quite a lovely person) I signed up.

Recently, another friend of mine sent me a similar invite and so she was added as a Facebook "friend".

Today, I got a message in my email inbox from a guy I haven't heard from in 14 years. You guessed it - Facebook.

So what's the deal with this thing? When I was first introduced to the website as part of a show and tell during a new media class at Ryerson, I laughed it off. It seemed like a rather silly way for people to compare the number of friends they had, like some kind of social contest. I couldn't figure out what it was that this site offered that email (or, heaven forbid - actual contact) didn't cover. (or MySpace for that matter)

But I poked around a little and managed to come across a couple of old friends. So here's where it gets interesting: do you make contact? I mean, if you needed Facebook to find them, odds are you aren't that close anymore and, well, maybe there's good reason for that. They may not want to hear from you. You're not that cool, you know.

But even if you wanted to find a long lost pal, I discovered the browse/search option is inconsistent at best (some methods are intuitive, others are clearly not). Sure if you and your friend happen to sign up for the same group, then you're off to the races (kind of - even that can be a pain for big groups). But as it turns out I had a hard time finding friends I know have profiles - we just didn't go to the same school or anything (or maybe they aren't aware of the group). So how do you find these "free agents"?

There is one way: give Facebook your personal email address and password and they'll search your contact list.


Are you f**king kidding me?!

Who in their right mind would do this? Sure, not only am I going to give god-knows-who access to my password protected email, but I'll expose everyone in my contact list to a potential virus/phishing scheme. I often question the motives behind these social websites, and, gee, trying to access as many email addresses as possible seems like a good motive. That's why I use a secondary, crappy address for this sort of thing. But giving you access to my primary hotmail account? Fuggetaboutit!

There are lots of privacy/security issues involved in these sorts of sites. Too many to go into here.

Look, people, be smart about this sort of thing. There's so much junk mail, spamming, phishing, malware, virus spreading out there already. Do NOT expose the people in your contact list to these things by providing their addresses to god-knows-who. And do NOT forward those f**king chain emails to 10 of your closest friends - I don't care if it's supposed to grant me my wish or help some supposed cause.

Facebook and the like may have their charms, but let's keep our heads, ok?

p.s. Gmail sucks - I hardly use it and get way more junk mail there than at my other accounts (yes, I squatted several of them). I suspect this is because I provided my Gmail address to the administration at Ryerson - which also sucks. By contrast, I get no junk mail at my account. Sure, the splash page is somewhat racy, but it might be worth investing in a secondary account there - for contests, Facebook and the like.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Grownups Read Things They Wrote As Kids

Popped by Dan's blog and noticed he posted about his recently-held and very successful Grownups Read Things They Wrote As Kids night at the Victory Cafe. (Which oddly enough could also be called Kids Read Things They Wrote, as Grownups)

Apparently, it's been getting some press, including an article in the Globe & Mail. I was flattered to see my Sam Mahoney, P.I. reading mentioned (though I'll refrain from pointing out to Leah McLaren that it was the tv that was rent-to-own, not the Lamborghini - that was a gift from a client, silly!). The article's here.

Rachel McAdams was there?!


Dan has decided to host the sequel to GRTTWAK on Monday April 30, 2007 at the Victory Cafe upstairs. Check it out. I'll be there with another Sam Mahoney installment, no doubt.

Oscars 2007: Surprisingly Predictable

So, the morning after...

In the end, I didn't bother posting predictions, but I almost wish I had - that way you'd believe me when I say I probably would have gotten them all right.

This had to be one of the most predictable Oscar shows in a long time, especially coming on the heels of last year's Crash fiasco.

And yet it could have been so much more interesting. On the surface, this appeared to be the most wide open awards show in recent memory - but then the Academy followed the lead of the bulk of the lead-up awards shows and it soon became apparent this was going to be colour-by- numbers: Departed, Scorsese, Whitaker, Mirren, Hudson. (Was it my imagination or was Helen Mirren the hottest gal in the theatre? I might have to take her off my all-time list and put her back on the active roster!)

The only surprise for me was the fact that one of the no-name backstage interviewers kept mentioning the amount of "surprises"; what show was he watching? And yet this morning even the Star is singing that refrain: surprises, surprises, surprises.

Right down to the wire and past the midnight hour Toronto time, no one could guess where the top prize of the 79th annual Academy Awards was headed. It was the most contested Oscar event in recent memory, with surprise winners all night long and with no film winning more than three awards until near the end.


The only mild surprise came when Alan Arkin won for Best Supporting Actor. But even then I figured when in doubt - give it to the old guy. But, seriously, his only competition was Djimon Hounsou. Did you really think Eddie Murphy was gonna win?

Even the Oscar win for the Hollywood neophyte was predictable. Jennifer Hudson was favoured to win Best Supporting Actress, though I'd argue her merits even though I haven't seen the film. I don't think you can judge an actor's performance until you see them in several movies - otherwise, you may just be seeing "them"; and that's not a performance - that's just them.

Pan's Labyrinth won in 3 categories (Make-up, Cinematography, Art Direction) which was well deserved. It didn't win for Foreign Language Film, but the critical acclaim The Lives of Others has been getting made that predictable as well.

There may have been a sense that Melissa Etheridge was an underdog, facing three songs from Dreamgirls, but I think that actually played in her favour. The three Dreamgirls songs were practically indistinguishable, so how could you single out a winner? Etheridge's song stood out - especially in light of the usual fare served up by perennial nominee Randy Newman.

Even Marie Antoinette winning for Costume Design (its only nomnation) wasn't a shocker simply because it's so utterly unorginal for a Renaissance "period piece" to claim that category.

I'm almost sorry to report that Babel was not shut out. Although I wouldn't have minded seeing one of its Supporting Actresses win, it picked up its only Oscar for - get this - Original Score. That's a kick in the balls, man.

As for Best Picture, I figured it was gonna be The Departed's night when it won for Film Editing. When a Best Picture nominee wins in a category it has no business being in, then you know the voters chose it "when in doubt"-style (Titanic...I'm looking in your direction...). Although I didn't want it to win and I thought there was still a little room for one of the other flicks to pull off a shocker, I didn't particularly think any of the other nominees were worthy either. So I guess I'm ok with it winning...

...I guess.

(Editing? EDITING?! Are you shi**ing me? There's nothing remarkable about the editing in that film!! And I still don't think Scorsese deserved to be nominated - there's nothing interesting/remarkable/unusual about the direction in that film; exactly what is the criteria here?! Who's gone the longest without winning?)

Oh, right and then there was Ellen. She did an ok job, I guess, but I hope she never hosts again. She is one of the reasons the show ran long (as well as - and I can't believe I'm gonna say this - too many montages). Did we really need to watch her hand Scorsese a script or get her picture taken with Eastwood, or - wtf? - vacuuming the front row? Get on with it! I think she lacked a little class, a little distinction, you know? I mean, there's self-depricating and then there's common. Billy Crystal is still easily the best host of my lifetime and I hope he decides to come back again. Or, failing that, ditch the host concept altogether. Have the announcer introduce the podium speakers and let them do a little intro - the end. Those little host moments really aren't necessary.

Ok, that's it for another year.

...By the way: 300 opens on the 9th! Booyah!

Craig Ferguson Monologue

This one is worth reposting - courtesy of Denis' page.

I like Craig Ferguson, but I almost never get around to his show. He's obviously a funny guy with a great deal of charisma.

It's amazing to watch this video and listen to the reaction of the audience.

Probably the most unusual talk show monologue you'll ever see.

Catch it here.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Top Ten Villainous Moments in Comics

Yup. Bored again. So I'm gona post a few things I came across today. Hope you won't mind.

Here's one for Karmic-Angel, quickly becoming one of the coolest gals I (don't) know. (Any other fans out there? Speak up!)

This is a pretty ambitious list. I mean, top ten of all time? Wow. Where do you start? I like this particular list, for the most part, but I sense that that's because Hilary Goldstein and I share many of the same influences. Heck, I own half these issues.

Here's the list, for quick reference:
10. Thunderbolts really Masters of Evil
Can't really speak on this one since I don't know it. But the idea that a team of villains would masquerade as heroes (and actually kinda like it) as part of a greater scheme is awesome.

9. Angel's wings clipped
I own the Classic X-Men version of this one. It was a cool visual, but...all time?

8. Joker cripples Barbara Gordon
Should definitely be on this list and maybe higher. This was so bad because it was so cold. She answers the door, Joker blows her away. Just - like - that. And unlike some other storylines, things did not later revert to normal.

7. Magneto rips out Wolverine's adamantium
Magneto finally crossed the line with the troublesome Canuck and put him down, but good. It was in the next issue that we realized Wolverine's claws weren't a product of the adamantium grafting process - the bones had been there the whole time. The last panel of that ish was awesome. Of course, he got the adamantium back and Magneto's labotomy courtesy of Professor X went away, too.

6. Doomsday kills Superman
This was of course the storyline for that year. It was in the papers, on tv, everywhere. Like most fans, I couldn't resist collecting each of the lead-up issues and a couple of copies (one to be left unopened in the plastic cover) of the climax issue. This led to the silly multiple Supermen arc, but was also the genesis of Parallax - a troubling but cool arc. Superman? Uh...yeah...he came back, too. I've got that issue as well.

5. Ozymandias Drops "Alien Menace" on New York
Part of The Watchmen. Shame on me for not having read it yet.

4. Bane breaks Batman's back
Batman finally beaten - badly. Remember when Bane was cool - not a punchline? (same thing happened to KGBeast) A neat story arc, but it led to all that Knightquest crap with Azrael. Meh. This was definitely an event, though.

3. Bullseye kills Elektra
Every major Daredevil story arc seems to have something to do with this.

2. Death of Gwen Stacy
One of my all time favs for sure (partly because I own it and it's one of my most valuable comics). I can't remember seeing a major character killed in a comic book before reading "The Night Gwen Stacy Died" (the title was not revealed until the last panel). It formed much of the inspiration for the climax in the Spider-Man movie (the bridge, the "death" of Green Goblin - which came in the next ish) with Mary Jane substituted in place of Gwen. It has so many great moments, including Peter's vow: "YOU'RE THE CREEP WHO'S GOING TO PAY! I'm going to get you, Goblin! I'm going to destroy you slowly - and when you start begging for me to end it, I'm going to remind you of one thing - YOU KILLED THE WOMAN I LOVE, AND FOR THAT, YOU'RE GOING TO DIE!" I only wish they had honoured this moment by leaving Norman Osborne dead.

1. Joker Blows up Jason Todd
This probably deserves the number one spot because it wasn't just the Joker who killed the second Robin - it was the fans. At a buck per vote, thousands of ballots were cast and fewer than one hundred votes sealed Jason's fate. It's actually a pretty lame issue (it takes place in the desert, not exactly conducive to a dramatic Batman mood), but the consequences were enormous for the Dark Knight.
Good list. You know, I can't really think of a moment I would add... Sounds like a good excuse to rifle through my collection...
Maybe Kraven The Hunter burying Spidey alive? ("Kraven's Last Hunt") That was a neat arc and a pretty good mindf**king of the ol' webslinger.

Top Ten Movies of 2006

Ok, folks, here you go - this is the big one: my choices for the top ten films of 2006. With the Oscars on this weekend, it seems now's the time to get this out - even if there are a few more 2006 movies I plan to see.

Let me emphasize that these are my top ten. These are a combination of the movies I enjoyed the most coupled with those I thought were just well made.

Wasn't thrilled with the ending, but the first half of this movie has enough charm and characterization that I give it a place on my list. I wanted more Alan Arkin and more Steve Carell, but what's there is enough to make this movie worth watching.

This was a superhero movie with a political slant - two things I tend to dig. It had its faults, but I found it entertaining, timely and surprisingly challenging. Also featured the coolest poster of the year.

Perhaps the most surprising pick of the list. It was weird, it was convoluted, it was...different. For that reason alone it gets credit in my books. This movie was just plain out there. Great performances by Hugh Jackman and Rachel Weisz in bizarre roles. Might be best for those who appreciate stage plays and are willing to accept that one set can represent multiple locales.

Again, a tough subject that was handled well. In fact, the movie is almost too clean - it comes off a bit like a tv movie (its almost universal acceptance is a sharp contrast to The Fountain's half-and-half and may be indicative of how safe The Queen is - and how bizarre The Fountain was). But who wants to see Elizabeth II swearing and having sex for the sake of bumping the rating? (Besides, there's plenty of Helen Mirren to be seen in some of her more youthful work - or Calendar Girls if you're into that sort of thing...)

Beautifully shot, charming premise. Could have been the top movie of the year with a bit more time devoted to the fantasy aspect, but the political angle earns points. Still not sure how I feel about the religious allegory aspect.

5. Venus
Massive points for the performance of Peter O'Toole as the lecherous playboy actor who befriends a teenager with her own relationship issues. Sweet and yet disturbing at the same time, this movie is another one of those that tackled an unusual subject admirably. Of the male lead performances I saw this year, O'Toole's was the best.

I don't care if it ain't your cup of tea and it has hit-and-miss moments - any movie that can make me laugh this hard deserves to be on this list. With movies to slit your wrists by like Babel out there, I want more laughs in my life - even if it is at someone else's expense. Sooo gross. Sooo funny.

Here was a movie with high expectations and big shoes to fill that passed with flying colours. I could have done without the bulk of the last half hour, but this movie was sharp, fun and action-packed. Not your daddy's Bond film, but a new approach that delivers in spades (better learn your hold'em rules before viewing!).

This movie deserves a ton of credit for the mere fact that it could have easily sucked ass. There were so many ways this movie could have gone horribly wrong, but Bryan Singer (who also breathed life into the X-Men) managed to navigate the minefield virtually unscathed. I had some issues with a couple of scenes, but overall this was a thrillride of a movie and deserving of the "blockbuster" tag. Sure Kate Bosworth was dull and the Luthor storyline made little sense, but Brandon Routh was spot on as a Christopher Reeve mimic - and who envied the actor who was supposed to walk in those shoes? This was a big movie with ridiculous expectations and I enjoyed its tone, charm and excitement; how many movies this year made me smile? It wasn't art, but it was enjoyable. This is the 2006 movie you stop to watch in the tv section of Sears.

Without question my favourite film of the year. Smart, funny and topical, I wish more movies were this "complete". It even had - get this - great editing! How you can know anything about editing and not rank this above The Departed and Children of Men at the very least is beyond me (this is one of the dumbest Oscar categories, in my mind - though, to be fair, this is actually listed as a 2005 film). I'm hard pressed to find a single flaw in this flick. It was right up my alley. I don't think I've been this satisfied by a movie since Fight Club (well, there was that Tera Patrick flick...) - another movie based on a tough-to-adapt book. Maybe there's something to this "book" thing...

What a weird list...

For your arguing reference, here is a compete list of the films I saw from 2006:
(the number next to the film indicates where it ranked on rottentomatoes' list - (x) = wide release, = limited release)

An Inconvenient Truth <5>
Bon Cop, Bad Cop
Borat (3)
The Break-up
Casino Royale (1)
Children of Men <3>
Clerks II
The Descent (7)
The Departed (2)
The Devil Wears Prada (14)
District B-13
The Fountain
The Illusionist
Inside Man (5)
Jackass II
Little Miss Sunshine <2>
Miami Vice
Mission Impossible III
Pan's Labyrinth <6>
Pirates of The Caribbean II
The Prestige (23)
The Proposition
The Queen <1>
The Science of Sleep
The Sentinel
Snakes On A Plane
Superman Returns (13)
Thank You For Smoking <15>
V For Vendetta (24)
Venus <38>
Volver <8>

What's that...36? Not bad, I guess. But there's lots I didn't get to.

Notable 2006 films I did not see:
Blood Diamond
The Da Vinci Code
Dreamgirls (12)
Flags of Our Fathers
Last King of Scotland <11>
Letters From Iwo Jima <17>
The Lives of Others
Manufactured Landscapes
Notes On A Scandal <27>
Tsotsi <34>
Rocky VI
Half Nelson

Rottentomatoes' Top 10 Wide Release:
1. Casino Royale
2. The Departed
3. Borat
4. United 93
5. Inside Man
6. Dave Chappelle's Block Party
7. The Descent (!?)
8. Slither
9. Akeelah and the Bee
10. A Prairie Home Companion

Rottentomatoes' Top 10 Limited Release:
1. The Queen
2. Little Miss Sunshine
3. Children of Men
4. Wordplay
5. An Inconvenient Truth
6. Pan's Labyrinth
7. Half Nelson
8. Volver
9. Deliver Us From Evil
10. Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story